WASHINGTON – Senator Eric Schmitt recently sent a letter to Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth demanding answers on behalf of thousands of service members who were discharged after not complying with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, and the Army’s subsequent letter offering an opportunity to change the characterization of the members’ discharge:
“Mandates imposed during COVID-19 came as the Army faced a struggle to recruit and retain members. Instead of focusing on the lethality of our Army, political leaders forced COVID-19 mandates onto our service members. In 2022, the Army missed its recruitment goals by approximately 15,000 soldiers, or nearly 25%. The Army has referenced a declining trust in the military, and I am convinced that mandates during COVID-19 for vaccinations and masks have made recruits refrain from serving our nation,” said Senator Eric Schmitt. “These mandates certainly harmed our military’s readiness and tragically destroyed the careers of thousands of brave volunteers. These members have faced negative implications for veterans benefits and employment outside of the military. It is likely that most of these former members will never return to the military and serve our nation.”
- Over 8,300 men and women across the entire military were discharged solely due to the COVID-19 mandates. The Army discharged 1,881 soldiers, and only granted 191 exemptions out of nearly 10,700 requests.
- Senator Schmitt’s letter demands answers and information on the following:
- The U.S. Department of Defense has previously stated it was exploring providing back pay to former service members, then later stated it did not intend to pursue that policy. Does the recent letter demonstrate that the Army intends to provide back pay and benefits to members who were separated from the Army solely due to COVID-19 mandates?
- The U.S. Department of Defense also stated it will remove any “adverse actions,’ including letters of reprimand” stemming from COVID-19 vaccination decisions. Has the Army finished its process to expunge current service members’ records of any adverse actions based solely on COVID-19 vaccination status?
- If a former member who was involuntarily separated due to COVID-19 mandates returns to service, will the Army restore the member’s rank?
- How many service members have responded to the Army’s letter already?
- Has the Army reviewed its current process for evaluating and granting religious exemptions for vaccination requirements, and are there any legislative changes necessary to ensure religious freedom for members is protected?
- Does the Army intend to proactively ask members who were involuntarily separated to rejoin the Army?